For any chef, being knocked off your bike while working in London and having to take a year out would be a huge blow to your career. When it happened to James Whetlor he certainly wasn’t over the moon, but it was the first in a chain of events that led him to setting up Cabrito Goat Meat, a company that now supplies top restaurants and Ocado.
After the accident James returned to his hometown in Devon, and a few months of experiencing the more relaxed country life meant he and his wife decided to stay put. Once his arm healed, James took a job at the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster; meanwhile, he was offered a bit of land that needed some work doing to it. He got talking to a goat’s cheese producer at a farmer’s market through a friend of his at River Cottage, and bought four billy goats to help cut back the grass. ‘Will [the cheesemaker] was determined not to kill any of his billy goats, despite it being standard practice throughout the goat farming industry (only females are kept for their milk),’ says James. ‘After buying the four to work on our bit of land, I bought two more off him to put on the menu at River Cottage Canteen – it sold out on both nights. I started to think that our little conclave in Devon can’t be the only place in the UK with a surplus of billy goats and a taste for goat meat, and realised there would be demand for it in London.’
James continued to buy billy goats, saving them from needless slaughter at birth, and sold his first to Jeremy Lee at Quo Vadis in April 2012. Places like St John and Bocca di Lupo soon became customers as well, and by the end of his first year James had bought and sold seventy.